You certainly know the man on the left, but do you know who's making the play on the right?
A couple weeks ago, I took a look at the most dangerous position groups Michigan will face on the 2014 schedule. Today, it's time to take a look at the best players, and this time around I took a team-by-team approach. In order of their appearance on the schedule, here are the dangermen who will be the focus of Michigan's game-planning in each of their regular-season contests.
Appalachian State: QB Armanti Edwards.
He graduated four years ago, you say? On an NFL roster, even? Well... I don't care. It's still Armanti Edwards.
Notre Dame: OLB Jaylon Smith
Smith is one of those five-star recruits who immediately live up to the billing. He started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, finishing third on the team in tackles (67) and second in TFLs (6.5) while generally looking like the Irish's best linebacker despite being surrounded by players with a lot of experience. He'll have to be the linchpin of Notre Dame's defense this year as the team tries to replace starting inside linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calebrese, who weren't all that impressive to begin with, as well as defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. With a standard sophomore leap, Smith could be good enough that his development alone overcomes the considerable losses in Notre Dame's linebacker corps.
Miami (NTM): WR/RB Dawan Scott
There's admittedly a dearth of choices from a team that went 0-12 in 2013, but Scott was a bright spot on an otherwise dismal Miami offense. His 15 yard average on 28 receptions led the team by over three yards. Until this season, he was actually listed at running back, and his 231 yards on 37 carries last season was good for second on the team. He's also a dangerous return man when given the opportunity, though the RedHawks reduced his special teams contributions last year as his role in the offense expanded. Miami does everything they can to get the ball in his hands, and given what's around him, that's as good a plan as any.
"It's Dres Day!" (!!!)
Utah: WR Dres Anderson
Utah's quarterbacks struggled last year, but that didn't matter much when they threw it to Dres Anderson, who led all Pac-12 receivers with an astonishing 18.9 yards per catch in 2013. It certainly helps that he can take a zero-yard pass and turn it into a 54-yard touchdown. The California native brings some explosive West Coast shit, and woe be upon the opponent that forgets about him.
Minnesota: CB Eric Murray
I guess I must acknowledge that Seth made one of the better picks of Draftageddon when he grabbed Eric Murray in the 18th round. While stats for defensive backs are often misleading, this chart speaks volumes about Murray's ability to play on an island with the best of them:
Minnesota runs a ton of man coverage, and they can largely get away with it because Murray makes life far easier on the rest of the secondary. At 6'2", 200 pounds, he's got the size to match up with just about any receiver and hold up well against the run, too.
Rutgers: DT Darius Hamilton
Hamilton is the type of five-star who needed a little time to marinate before starting to reach his prodigious potential; after a very quiet freshman year in 2012, he broke through as a sophomore, leading the Scarlet Knights with 11.5 TFLs and chipping in 4.5 sacks from the interior. He's got an NFL future, and he pairs with sophomore linebacker Steve Longa to give Rutgers at least a little star power on their defense. There may be a lack of high quality players on the roster, but Hamilton would be a big-time contributor on any of the teams on this list.
Penn State: QB Christian Hackenberg
While there may be more proven, experienced stars on the Nittany Lions—OT Donovan Smith and LB Mike Hull come to mind—there's little question the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year has the most talent of anybody on the Penn State roster. Hackenberg has all the tools to be a first-round NFL quarterback: size, arm strength, accuracy, and pocket presence that belies his youth. The big question for this fall is how he'll deal with the loss of the outstanding Allen Robinson, who accounted for a massive 1432 of Hackenberg's 2955 passing yards last year. There may be a Henne-like step back for the sophomore signal-caller, at least numbers-wise, but with a great group of tight ends and that level of talent, he should be plenty impressive again this year.
Michigan State: S Kurtis Drummond
I'll let BiSB handle this one, since he would've inevitably chimed in anyway in the comments:
Along with Kurtis Drummond's 4 picks and 6 PBUs, he made 91 tackles from the free safety spot. That typically signals DOOM for a defense, so to put up those kinds of numbers in such a dominant defense is really impressive.
He doesn't just get to play center field, either; MSU's Cover 4 requires him to defend receivers in essentially single coverage all over the field, and he looks like a corner when he does so. He has great ball skills and can flip his hips and run with anyone in the league. That's him running stride-for-stride with Devin Smith.
Drummond is generally regarded as the top free safety prospect for the 2015 draft, which almost certainly will get him into the first round, perhaps even the top half. His play merits the hype.
Indiana: RB Tevin Coleman
I'm clearly getting lazy, because for the second time in a row, I'll let a big ol' blockquote do the explaining, this one from SBNation's Bill Connelly:
But the primary reason I can't worry too much about Indiana's offense is Tevin Coleman. Highlight Yards basically look at a runner's explosiveness once he reaches the second level of a defense. Combining that with Opportunity Rate (the frequency with which you reach said second level), we get a pretty good idea for what kind of back you are. Coleman's 35.9 percent Opportunity Rate was nothing special, but no one in the country was more explosive.
Of the 199 FBS players with at least 100 carries in 2013, only seven averaged 8.0 highlight yards per opportunity or greater. Boston College's Andre Williams and Missouri's Henry Josey averaged 8.0, Maryland's C.J. Brown and Ohio State's Braxton Miller averaged 8.4, West Virginia's Dreamius Smith and UL-Lafayette's Elijah McGuire averaged 8.6 ... and Tevin Coleman averaged 12.0. His average was 40 percent better than the second best. He had 14 carries of at least 20 yards (only 12 players had more), and he had eight of at least 40 (most in the country). He is unlit dynamite every play he's on the field.
Short version: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn. Indiana may miss Tre Roberson's running threat as a change-of-pace quarterback, but their running game is still in good shape with Coleman toting the rock.
Northwestern: RB Venric Mark
Yes, we (justifiably) made fun of Seth for making Mark the first running back off the board in Draftageddon, but when healthy he's one of the most versatile and explosive players in the conference. When he played 13 games in 2012, Mark rushed for 1366 yards on 6.0 YPC, chipped in 20 receptions out of the backfield, and took two punt returns to the house. He only managed 31 carries last year before a broken ankle cut his season short; if he's back to full strength, though, he'll be right behind Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah (and right with Coleman) in the conversation about who's the best back in the Big Ten.
Maryland: WR Stefon Diggs
Another star coming off a season-ending injury, Diggs was on the way to putting up some eye-popping numbers in 2013 before a broken leg ended his campaign after seven games. In that span, he caught 34 passes for 587 yards (17.2 YPC) while averaging nearly 6.5 yards on a handful of end-arounds and 23.4 yards on 12 kickoff returns. He's every bit the explosive playmaker he was billed to be as a highly touted recruit, and the solid depth and talent among Maryland's receivers makes it difficult for defenses to focus too much attention on him.
Ohio State: QB Braxton Miller
Well, yeah, it's hard to argue with the two-time reigning Big Ten MVP, even with all the stars along OSU's defensive line. Miller boasted a 24:7 TD-to-INT ratio, improved his completion percentage and passing yardage for the third straight season, and rushed for 1201 yards on 8.0 YPC when sacks are removed—and he even made strides in taking fewer sacks, too. While the loss of Carlos Hyde will hamper the Buckeye running game, they've got several talented replacements at running back, and the constant threat of Miller making something remarkable happen should keep Urban Meyer's offense quite dangerous indeed.
I used to fisk things, back in the long long ago when people referred to the "MSM" seriously and I had a tiny platform compared to the people writing dumb things that annoyed me. These days most of those people are in other jobs and I gradually got over the fact that Someone Is Wrong On The Internet.
If that paragraph sounds like one big run up to me fisking the everloving pants off of something, yuuuuup. It's a teenager rage tactic from the dawn of mom's basement jokes. And it is absolutely required for this.
I got so mad at Matt Hayes writing things on the internet once that I called him "Horseface," which I was not proud of for a long time. I retroactively retract that shame. To the fiskmobile.
They’ve tried it all, and nothing has worked. Conditioning, suspension, rehabilitation. Even outright dismissal.
The prison system of America: overcrowded, broken, scourge of the inner city. This is an unusual topic for Matt Hayes.
Yet here we are, heading into a new era of college football with a brand new postseason, and the same old problems exist: players can’t seem to control themselves behaviorally off the field — no matter the consequences.
Oh goddammit. I have no idea what Matt Hayes's audience is these days since the Sporting News has died so many times cats are impressed but it must consist heavily of people who buy gold from Glenn Beck at 5 AM and think we should deport the Irish.
There is no college football crime spree. When SI did a study a few years ago they came back with the disturbing news that 7% of all college football players had been charged with a crime. That's terrible! Unless you look up the stats that say half of all black males and 40% of white males are arrested by 23. And that's just being charged, not convicted.
It turns out that professional aspirations and the threat of running stadium steps are in fact a great motivator to stay out of trouble.
“Because,” one Power 5 coach told Sporting News, “we can’t reach them where it matters most.”
That place, everyone, is the NFL.
I still think it's… let's come back to this.
If this were a relationship, it would have been dissolved long ago. College football gives everything to the NFL in every way, shape and form. The NFL gives nothing in return.
Now it’s time for the NFL, which for decades has thrived with the backdrop of a free minor league system that recruits, trains, teaches and ministers to young men before they step foot into the multi-billion dollar business, to give back.
Free minor league? What the…? I mean, yeah, the NCAA does act as a talent feeder, but the NFL only came into existence because the NCAA made football so popular that people tried and failed to make it into a nationwide pro sport for decades after Yost built a stadium that seated 100k. The NCAA is absolutely overrun with cash. The NFL doesn't owe it anything because it is impossible to owe a machine that prints money something. College football exists because it is profitable to exist, and not because of the NFL.
That means giving back the only way they can: controlling the flow of future money.
Shit is about to get real. This is the last semi-sane sentence here.
You want college football cleaned up?
No. We are currently making fun of how Mark Richt has lost control of everything because his players continually get in moped incidents.
Your article about the RASH OF ARRESTS SPIRALLING OUT OF CONTROL includes two marijuana possession charges, a DUI, an "obstructing governmental operations" misdemeanor, five guys who were immediately booted from their teams, and then four incidents spread across 120 teams that are serious-ish and still pending resolution. One of those is, yes, a moped joyride. I'm surprised Jameis Winston's crab legs aren't on there.
You want players who get second, third and fourth chances to finally see the game really is about both football and an education and learning about living and surviving and growing on your own?
I would like to see a system in which 75% fewer arrests transpire! But we already have…
You want this seemingly endless string of player arrests and violence against women to end?
MATT HAYES WANTS THE NFL TO PREVENT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
SCREW YOU, HORSEFACE!
Hit the players where it matters most:
That was my second choice.
The NFL can make this very simple and succinct. Any college player interested in employment in the league must pass a background check, and if they have a history of arrests or off-field issues, they immediately are moved into a — here’s the key — significantly lower earning bracket for the first four years of their employment.
How significant? Well below league minimum, or about $50,000-$75,000 a year.
Take a guess what the average league lifespan is for a player: four years.
The NFL can make it very simple if they negotiate an entirely new CBA that strips people with a history of "off-field issues"—like not even arrests—of potentially millions of dollars even if they're the top pick in the draft. Where is the line here? Does a pot arrest trigger it? How about a theft that got diverted into something that doesn't pop up on your criminal record?
And while this isn't relevant to the thrust of the article, let me state that saying "here's the key" when your platform is one plank long makes me want to flush your computer down a toilet, horseface. To have a "key" you have to have things that are more or less important, and it is impossible for a thing to be more or less important than itself. Obviously. Horseface.
“You have to understand, it’s more than just suspending a player and saying you’re going to miss X number of games for what you did,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban. “You have to change the behavior; you have to change the way the player thinks and acts.”
What better way than by taking away his ability to earn?
Yeah man why not just steal millions of dollars away from poor people who screwed up once because the Olds are scared of 'em.
I mean obviously the criminal justice system that looked at whatever these violations are and said "eh, do your time" is completely incapable of preventing this country from descending into a lawless morass. Let's take over from them. That is outside the justice system's core competency and right in ours.
This drastic yet necessary turn takes the onus off schools and the presidents of those schools to police behavior, the same people who have proven over and over that they have too much invested in players to make decisions that could impact those investments.
"Necessary." Because college football players get arrested one fourth as often as the average Joe.
“No one wants to look at this for what it is,” said another Power 5 conference coach. “It’s a vicious cycle.”
A vicious cycle is a feedback loop. The theory here is apparently that football players getting arrested and catching hell or getting booted by their coaches makes other football players more likely to commit crimes. I can only imagine this quote comes from Tim Beckmann, who tells his toaster every morning not to viciously cycle his bread, and then finds out he's talking to the washing machine again.
The first logical hurdle would be the NFL Players Association, which would be against anything that limits earning ability. But in the long run, it benefits both the NFL and the NFLPA to have players who understand right from wrong; who comprehend that every decision has consequences.
I mean Ray Lewis kind of murdered a dude. You know that, right? A guy ended up dead largely because of Ray Lewis, and the NFL fined him a quarter-million dollars and said "don't do it again." Nobody noticed or cared. If you want the NFL to fix college kids it is possible they should start with themselves.
You don’t punch someone in the head, and a year later, get picked in the second round of the draft and make significant money.
You don’t slap a woman, and a year later, get picked in the second round of the draft and make significant money.
— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) July 29, 2014
It’s not like we’re breaking ground with this idea. Players will find in the real world, where you don’t get paid to play a game, employers don’t look too favorably on those with criminal records. And if they do, it certainly isn’t for much more than an entry-level job with minimum pay — until the employee proves to be worthy of more.
Even aside from guys named Ray who play for Baltimore, have you ever read any of the copious anonymous crap your own damn magazine publishes about players every time the draft rolls around? The NFL's official site said Johnny Manziel had an "outlaw mentality"! The NFL is constantly probing every potential mental gap and making tut-tutting judgments about every player. Those last until the instant that player proves he's pretty good in the NFL, and then you can knock your damn wife unconscious and you get a lesser suspension than Terrelle Pryor got for getting some free tattoos.
This is the way the world works. The sooner players understand and grasp this concept, the better for all involved.
The way the world works: pretend it never happened and refuse to apologize until people forget about it. This is my advice to you about this column.
So you're probably wondering where your books are, after the digital editions have been out since July 4 weekend. Here's what's happened.
First off, you should have your digital copy: Kickstarter backers if you haven't got yours yet check your email, check your Kickstarter account, or email me. If I'm by a computer you'll get it right away; otherwise you'll get it as soon as I'm by a computer again.
Second, we should have your address. Also if you haven't filled in your address form yet, you should have an email in your inbox from me this morning. Go do that RIGHT NOW.
What happened: The page files got held up at some check-through person who didn't realize it was a hurry project that was already formatted, etc., after being sent in to the printer/distributor, and this wasn't noticed until several weeks later because I was dealing with a personal tragedy in the interim and didn't follow up until then. So the printer didn't even realize they could could start printing until July 18, which meant they didn't touch them until July 21 and still haven't printed or bound a single copy. Ungh.
What's happening: The total fit has been blown and they're fast-tracking the print job and shipping the books out this week. That includes books that were from the Kickstarter, and books that were pre-ordered from the MGoStore (the signed ones won't come until, you know, they're signed). They're all going first class. So expect books to start arriving in mailboxes next week, and unless you're international start worrying by mid-August.
Mea culpa: This was my screw-up first and foremost. Production ran over to begin with and I wasn't on the ball to make sure everything was going smoothly afterwards.
ALSO: If your address has changed since you entered it, email me.
Via Chris Balas, here's a new, crazy name for Michigan's SG spot in the 2016 class: Duncan Robinson, who spent last year at D-III Williams College. It sounds like this is escalating quickly, to the point where a visit that starts Monday is likely to see him commit:
"Coach Beilein said once I get on campus, they have a scholarship open that I should have one. That's exciting, kind of a dream come true. Hopefully that all works out. Coach Maker is excited for me - he said he would have recruited me at West Virginia or if he had gone with Coach Beilein to Michigan. He definitely believes in me, and I believe in him as a coach."
So, like, brace yourself. There will be some caterwauling on your message board of choice because what about Jalen Coleman. And I feel that too, a bit.
Only a bit, though. The 6'7" Robinson hit 45% of a lot of threes and is looking to transfer after his coach moved on, with the usual suspects sniffing around. Along with Michigan, Creighton and Davidson are involved. That is a who's who of Shoot It Shoot The J programs. Meanwhile Williams's coach is a former Beilein assistant who runs all of the same stuff Michigan does. Last year was an apprenticeship.
UMHoops already has video of him last year:
And… yeah, doesn't most of that translate to D-I? I mean that on the block fadeaway is a Stauskas move and the various moving three pointers are un-checkable at any level. If this was a high school reel we'd all be like "yes please."
So why is he in D-III? Apparently because he really really wanted to go to this one college, scholarship be damned. NERR was like "you guys who are lolwut aren't entirely wrong" last year:
“While the masses are wondering how a sharp-shooting six-foot-seven forward could have slipped through the scholarship cracks, the reality is that he jumped through, spurning scholarship offers for the top ranked liberal arts school and one of the most storied Division III basketball programs in the country.”
At this point Michigan has earned a bit of leeway when they take someone you cock your eyebrow at. Beilein can just say "scoreboard." While taking this guy would be a bit weird, shooting is shooting is shooting is shooting. At 6'7" he also has flexibility to play the 3 and maybe even the 4 if he gets stronk like bull under Sanderson.
I mean, at this point you just look at a skinny 6'7" guy and wonder when the NBA comes calling, no matter where he's from.
If Michigan does offer and Robinson commits, that would not necessarily put an end to Michigan's 2015 class. That currently stands at no people; Michigan is bracing for a LeVert departure and reclassified Max Bielfeldt to senior status. They're also likely to put Austin Hatch on a medical. So they would almost certainly have room to add a second player in the class. A third is even possible.
Possible, but doubtful. Given the state of the roster and how strong Michigan is with a number of 2016 kids it seems like it would be a bit difficult for them to get another kid in without compromising what they hope is a monster class the year after. A Jalen Coleman in the hand is worth two Tyus Battles in the bush, though. Wouldn't rule it out. Do think that Michigan's expanding 2015 SG recruiting pool would get restricted to one, maybe two guys.
Meanwhile, Robinson would sit out the upcoming season and then have three to play.
We shall have to *press* our *quarters*. Ha ha! do you smoke the pun dear Maturin?
We've been talking about how Michigan State's defense worked and how Michigan's this year and in the future could be using that as a model. I've brought up how the 4-3 over works, but the genius of Dantonio's defense is really in how he does coverage. Since it seems this is what Michigan will be doing, I thought a lay understanding of it wouldn't go amiss just now.
Coaches, you can offer corrections or tune out because this is going to be a little more basic. Spartans, try not to be too offended at the butchery I make of your wonderful defense. You are truly our state's top program and in no way does continuing to whine about a statement a 21-year-old made in 2007 make you petty.
Now let's go to the alignment above. We're looking at a 4-3 over; the defensive line is shifted to the "strong" side (technically Michigan's offense is balanced but the side with the two TEs is strong. Also that's the field side). We're also looking at a defense that is really creeping up. The safeties are 7 and 8 yards off the line of scrimmage, the linebackers are 4 yards off, and the cornerback at the bottom of your screen is in press. The variant on the 4-3 over is the defensive ends spread out (the SDE is in a wide-9 tech, the WDE completely outside the RT's shoulder), and the linebackers group in closer to compensate.
This is "aggressive." The guys apparently in charge of the deep part of the field are further off the line of scrimmage than the running back. There's a mismatch on your right, where a cornerback is matched against a tight end (Butt), but that hardly matters since any run is going right into a pile of bodies.
Cover 2 and Cover 2 Man
Getting up and bothersome to any receivers near the line of scrimmage has big benefits. The receiver will have a hard time getting into his route, throwing off the timing of the play and ensuring the offense gets nothing cheap like a quick out or in. A good press corner will prevent his receiver from getting into an easy route like a slant (the old fashioned man-coverage beating route). The danger of this is the press doesn't work all the time and then you've got a receiver accelerating downfield past a cornerback who's facing the wrong way. For this reason press teams would leave the safeties back to help. It ends up functionally not that different from Cover 2.
Of course that has a downside as well. While each receiver has 1.5 guys occupied with him, you've got the safeties and outside linebackers chasing the passing game instead of manning the run gaps. Defensive rule numero uno is don't be easy to run on.
A very popular alternative these days is Quarters. The link will explain further but simply put, with quarters coverage the cornerbacks and safeties have option routes depending on what the receivers do. They watch the inside guy (in a stack it's the back guy). If he goes vertical the safety has him; if he goes into the flat, the cornerback does and the safety plays Cover 2.
Watch this gif from the above link until you get a feel; the left side is the #2 receiver going vertical and the right side is him going into the flat.
"Going vertical" as I learned it, is the receiver going 8 or more yards downfield before making a turn. This is a strong coverage technique to cover the outside and downfield stuff the receivers will do, and leaves the linebackers available to cover short Cov 2 routes and react to the run. It's very base; the best way to beat it is to have your running game outmatch their front seven. The safeties are able to stand back and read, so like Cov 2 they're available to cut down whatever made it through. That's good enough for Virginia Tech, who's been running Quarters and been solid against the run for a decade and a half. But it wasn't good enough for Dantonio.
Very Aggressive Quarters
You may have already smoked out the difference between Michigan State's alignment against Michigan and the Cover 4 look that quarters starts out in. You've got that cornerback pressing a guy, for one. And the other thing: if the coverage is waiting until the inside guy is 8 yards downfield to be sure of their decision, and the safeties are standing 7 yards off the line of scrimmage, aren't they setting themselves up for one of those "hey maybe I oughtta be chasing this guy who just ran by me." things?
State will pack their guys in the box so linebackers and safeties are right there to stop the run. The linebackers squeeze laterally into the box, so the coverage is strongest inside (knowing this, offenses don't typically expect to find open guys there, leaving those LBs free to run Narduzzi's favorite Double-A gaps blitz).
That makes them very stout against the run, but should have a weakness tradeoff against outside passes. If the #2 receiver goes vertical the safety has to turn and go with him, meaning there's zero help for the cornerback.
State's answer to that: "So what!" This is where stretching the boundaries of pass interference comes into play, because the cornerback's job is to grab anything, pay off anybody, or sacrifice however many livestock and virgins it takes to keep that receiver from getting downfield.
Here's where Dantonio's program development comes into play, because it takes a long time for cornerbacks to get to the point where their press will work often enough that the quarterback stops expecting that guy to be open. Also they have to be ready for what coaches will do to screw with them.
It's also where finding good players comes into play. You can't get away with this if you have crappy Indiana safeties. There's tremendous strain put on the defensive backs to play up and still cover deep; if they can't handle it (and the offense has any kind of downfield passing ability) the jig is up.
In the defense's favor: in the college game, especially the game today where Tom Brady wannabes are less common than Denard Robinson wannabes (i.e. guys who are running threats but hardly devastatingly accurate deep passers), an offense that can rip you over the top is a rare cove indeed. The talent-depleted Big Ten has been short on defense-stretching receivers; a good 40% of Big Ten wideouts who'd pose a major threat to this scheme play for Maryland. Braxton Miller has a lot going for him but he tends to sail such passes over his open guys' heads. Devin Gardner, especially a beat up Devin Gardner, has a tendency to underthrow, turning open receivers into a game of Five-Hundred. Hackenberg might have success but his best targets are tight ends; Sudfeld has a similar problem now that his slot dude is the last man standing. And omigod can you just imagine what happens when this thing meets Gary Nova? "Like a Wrecking Ball" don't enter into it!
Last year Borges tried to screw with the Quarters reads by making it unclear who's the #1 or #2 receiver to that side, either with stacks or putting 3 receivers to the same side or like this (watch the WRs at the top of the screen):
Michigan ran just a two-man route, motioning the outside receiver into the inside receiver. Ultimately Funchess leapt a million feet in the air to beat Drummond to the outside, but look how seamlessly the Spartan defensive backs executed this and made it hard.
A novice might have a hard time with who's 1 or 2, but not a 5th year senior. Dantonio built his program, like Wisconsin's, on retention. He'll hold onto guys for three or four years usually before they see the field (or else the kids have to beat out the upperclassmen). It also makes those elders kind of crucial because the depth chart carries a lot of pressmen in training.
So for the first few seconds of the play, it's kind of Cov 2 man with everybody so bunched near the line of scrimmage that the run game will be right there and obvious, and thus easy to stop. Then quarters rules take over. And it can't be cracked wide open because pass interference isn't likely to be called unless you're playing at Notre Dame.
Can Michigan do this? Actually it's probably the best thing for the defensive personnel the coaches have collected, since the one thing we seem to have a glut of is really good cornerbacks, and more in development.
Cole Commits, Plans To Enroll Early
Michigan's BBQ at the Big House proved a success even before meat hit grill when Saginaw Heritage WR/DB Brian Cole committed to the Wolverines on Saturday, becoming the ninth commit in the 2015 class and giving U-M a big head-to-head win over MSU for the top-ranked player in the state. Multiple outlets report that Cole will start out as a slot receiver in Doug Nussmeier's system, though with his size and athleticism he'll likely move around the formation a bit.
Cole didn't head into his weekend visit with plans to commit, but he told MLive's Nick Baumgardner the visit changed his mind:
"But everything felt right, everything felt like home," the Saginaw Heritage football star said Saturday. "This morning, I just felt it. Instead of wasting time going to the other schools, I just wanted to end it. This just felt like the place I wanted to be."
Fellow Saginaw native Roy Manning played a huge role in Cole's commitment—in the same article, Cole said "it seemed like I've known him my whole life." While the jury's obviously still out on Manning as a cornerbacks coach, there's no question he's a heck of a recruiter.
Cole also plans to enroll early, which should assuage fears that his commitment won't stick. His pledge moved Michigan up to fifth in the Big Ten (#29 nationally) in the 247 Composite team rankings, even though the Wolverines are tied for the fewest number of commits in the conference. Michigan's average prospect rating is best in the conference and sixth nationally, behind only Alabama, USC, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Florida.
#BBQMaizeRace Produces Leader: Michigan
Could Marcus Lewis (second from L) join Garrett Taylor (back) in the Michigan secondary? (photo via Taylor)
Michigan added some excitement to the BBQ this year with the introduction of the #bbqmaizerace, in which the recruits on campus were split into teams and had to run around campus, Amazing Race-style, to take photos at various campus landmarks. The race played out on Twitter, which proved to be an excellent recruiting tactic—at least one major target who wasn't in attendance took notice of the new twist on a campus tour:
Wish i was at the #bbqmaizerace
— Keisean South (@KLSouth16) July 27, 2014
The event also made a major impact on the prospects in Ann Arbor, of course, especially 2015 four-star DC CB Marcus Lewis, who entered the weekend as a Florida commit. Lewis struck up a friendship with fellow corner Garrett Taylor, and after the visit he made it pretty clear he could see himself lining up across from Taylor in the future, per Sam Webb ($):
“Garrett Taylor… by far I definitely connected with him the most,” he said. “We spent a lot of time together. (We) just did different things and talked about different stuff. He is a good kid. We didn’t always talk about football. We talked about school... just different types of things. You could tell he is a really good kid, so we’re definitely going to get along.”
That last statement may not be a slip of the tongue. While Lewis hasn’t yet made a final decision on which school he’ll ultimately attend, he has made a decision about where Michigan now stands on his list.
“They’re definitely high,” Lewis said of the Maize & Blue. “They’re at the top. They’re right at the top.”
Lewis told Webb that Michigan, Oregon, and Miami are now the three schools he plans to take official visits to—in fact, that's his new top three, in order, per 247's Ryan Bartow($)—and "that will probably be it" before he makes a fall decision. Unsurprisingly, given the above, it didn't take Lewis long to end his commitment to Florida:
#Michigan target Marcus Lewis officially de-commits from Florida.
— Clint Brewster (@clintbrew247) July 28, 2014
Even if a commitment isn't imminent—Lewis told 247 that he wants to take his officials before making another pledge—Michigan looks to be in really good shape here.
That may not be the case with three-star Detroit King OLB Tyriq Thompson, who was considered by most insiders as a Michigan State lean heading into his BBQ visit. If that's true, Michigan looks like they'll be runners-up in this particular race, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“(Michigan is in the) same position as before I guess,” Thompson said.
“I’ve been thinking about everything (with my recruitment) these past couple days,” Thompson added.
Asked directly if he feels ready to make a decision and knows where he wants to go to school, Thompson answered swiftly.
“Yes,” he said.
While it was encouraging that Thompson made it to the BBQ before he announced his decision—a date/time hasn't been set yet, but one should come soon—either Michigan was in much better shape than most thought or he's headed to State.
Michigan did come out of the weekend still looking very strong for NC four-star SDE Darian Roseboro, who'll decide in about a month, as well as LA three-star WDE Jalen Bates, who told Webb that Michigan is "definitely" in his top five now ($).
BBQ: Weber Makes The Trip
In an encouraging sign for Michigan, Cass Tech RB Mike Weber took an early flight back from an unofficial to USC in order to make the BBQ. Weber pulled in a Trojans offer while out west, and they'll be a factor in his recruitment moving forward, as they made the top five list he gave GBW's Josh Newkirk after the BBQ ($):
After his visit to Michigan on Sunday, where does U-M stand in his recruitment?
Tennessee had previously been in his top five; the other four schools remain the same. While USC could definitely be a threat, the feeling surrounding Weber's recruitment is still that this is a Michigan-MSU battle, and the Wolverines seem to be building some serious momentum.
The Trojans already made a serious mark on Michigan recruiting last weekend, as they landed the consensus top player in the state's 2016 class, four-star Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker Daelin Hayes. Hayes received his USC offer while on an unofficial visit and jumped on it immediately.
BBQ: 2016 Commit Watch?
2016 Philadelphia (PA) Timber Creek four-star WR Cameron Chambers spent the weekend in Ann Arbor, and following the visit he's ready to make a decision, per 247's Steve Lorenz:
2016 Top100 wide receiver Cameron Chambers confirmed to Wolverine247 that he will release a top five on Monday and then will make his college decision on Friday.
Ohio State was considered the favorite heading into the visit, but the timing of the announcement—right after Chambers spent two days in Ann Arbor—is encouraging for Michigan. He announced his top five today and both schools made the cut, along with Alabama, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
BBQ: Cass Tech Updates
Four-star Cass Tech DL/OL Michael Onwenu almost missed the trip to Ann Arbor, but thankfully his coaches and teammates knew he'd be getting good news and lit up his phone, per The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan ($):
"I was actually asleep, and I had forgotten I was supposed to go to Michigan today," he said. "Since Coach Crowell and the other guys [Donovan Peoples-Jones, LaVert Hill, and Mike Weber] blew up my phone I had an idea the offer was coming."
"The offer is for DL," he said. "Coach Hoke offered personally, and wants me to play the nose. He said I did great at the camp. I was light in my feet and my burst and strength is amazing. Even though he said that, I thought I could've done better.
As someone who once slept through a midterm because I confused the dates... I know that feel, Michael.
Michigan offered Onwenu's teammate—and the younger brother of current U-M S Delano Hill—four-star CB Lavert Hill last week, and he told Wiltfong he had a "great time" at the BBQ ($). Ohio State also joined the fray with an offer last week, though confidence is high that Michigan will land Hill sooner or later.
Joining Onwenu and Hill—as well as Weber—on campus was standout 2017 Cass Tech WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, who should turn into one of the state's top prospects in his class. While Michigan hasn't yet put forth an offer, Ohio State, Miami (YTM), Penn State, and a few others already have.
BBQ: More 2016 Reactions
Michigan also got a major in with top-50 2016 WI OT Ben Bredeson, arguably the most coveted lineman in the Midwest, when his older brother Jack committed to the baseball program while both visited campus over the weekend. Ben told 247's Steve Wiltfong that the family trip to Ann Arbor was a great one:
"We are really excited [about Jack's commitment]," Bredeson said.
The football staff at Michigan was excited to see the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Bredeson back on campus, and no question they were pumped about the elder Bredeson committing to the school. It certainly can't hurt their chances with Ben, who had another positive experience in Ann Arbor.
"It was amazing as usual," Bredeson said. "I love coming here."
Michigan will get plenty of competition from Ohio State and Wisconsin, but only one of those schools has Bredeson's brother headed their way—we'll see how big a factor that plays as Ben's recruitment moves forward.
Another top-50 overall prospect, IL SDE Josh King, told Wiltfong that the trip was "amazing" and surpassed any of his previous visits ($):
King has been on a few visits to places like Iowa and Notre Dame but this was his favorite trip thus far.
"I'd have to say so," King started in. "The coaches were real. It seemed like the place to be. Just the overall experience."
Michigan also made inroads with a pair of four-star 2016 Indiana prospects. Four-star DE Auston Robertson pulled in an offer while at the BBQ, then gave his reaction to Wiltfong:
"Man it was great I got the offer," Robertson told 247Sports after leaving campus. He made the trip with friend, fellow 2016 four-star and major Michigan target in Top100 receiver Austin Mack.
"I love the coaching staff, but I'm going to stay humble and wait everything out with Austin."
Mack, who earned an offer earlier this summer at Michigan's camp, told Scout's Allen Trieu that 2016 U-M QB commit Messiah deWeaver is "my dude" and discussed the possibility of playing with Robertson at the next level ($):
"Yeah it's something that's definitely a key factor. We'd love to. Right now I'm talking with other schools to talk to him. We will work together to see if it's the right thing for us to do but we would love the opportunity to play together, so we'll see how that goes."
Package deals fall through more often than not, but for now this gives Michigan a solid recruiting pitch for both Robertson and Mack.
Four-star IL OLB TUF BORLAND also was in attendance at the BBQ, and while his offer list—Illinios and UMass—doesn't yet match his rankings, he feels that Michigan could help change that soon, per Sullivan ($):
"The visit went well," he said. "They said that they were really excited to have me up there, and they're really close to offering. They just said to keep doing what I'm doing, and that they'll be around my school soon."
Borland has been to U-M multiple times and only plans on visiting Illinois before his junior season begins; the Wolverines would have a very good shot with him if an offer comes through.
BBQ: 2017 (AHHHH) Update
2017 OLSM LB Josh Ross isn't getting pressured to commit yet, according to his father, but based on the vibe he gets in Ann Arbor it'd be a surprise if he didn't eventually suit up in Maize and Blue, per Allen Trieu ($):
"It's almost to the point come to those deals, especially Coach Mattison, we always see him, we always talk. We don't get into too much depth, just little stuff. Everybody comments on his size (6-2, 210) because the dude is so much bigger. Looking at him and he looks like somebody else, he doesn't look like my kid."
"It's like home up there," [father James Ross Sr.] added. "Not to say that's how we'll go with it, but with that group of guys up there, there's no pressure. It's family. It's how they do it. It's always laid back. They know and respect what kind of athlete he is."
Despite Daelin Hayes' commitment to USC, Ross is the reason I'll be scouting games at a blood-red field for the next few seasons.
Happy trails to three-star 2015 Cass Tech DL Joshua Alabi, who committed to Ohio State at their Friday Night Lights event over the weekend. While Michigan offered Alabi relatively early in the process, mutual interest between the two seemed to wane over the last several months.
While 2015 NC DE Kengera Daniel didn't end up making the BBQ, he told Scout's Michael Clark that Michigan is one of the schools he's seriously considering ($):
“Right now, the main schools I’m looking at are Tennessee, Michigan, Miami and Alabama,” said Kengera Daniel. “Those aren’t necessarily my top schools, but those are the schools I’ve been looking at the hardest. Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky still have a chance, too.
Daniel plans to take all five officials; Michigan is fighting for one of three spots there, as he's already reserving two of those for Tennessee and Alabama.
OT commit Erik Swenson came in at #70 on the initial 2016 Rivals100.
For the love of all things sacred and holy, somebody please do this with a baby wolverine.